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Published: November 7th 2016
Leaving the jungles of Bukit Lawang I again had to catch the four hour bus ride to the dreadful city of Medan. I really have no love for this place with its traffic and smog congested streets and the ever present street hawker trying to relieve you of every last Rupiah he can. A necessary evil though as it is the major transport hub for Sumatra. After arriving back in Medan I transferred to another bus heading five hours to the South. Nothing moves quick in Sumatra as I am learning. My destination was Parapat - the jumping off point for Danau Toba and Pulau Samosir. Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake on the planet measuring 100km long x 30km wide and 505m deep lying in the caldera of a super-volcano and was formed some 73,000 years ago by a massive eruption here on Sumatra. Every once in a while I arrive in a place whose natural beauty gives me a peace and a comfort that leads me to know I will stay a while. I had arrived in such a place and good thing as my fever had spiked to 102F. I needed rest and Danau Toba and the
friendly Batak people of Pulau Samosir were just the cure I needed for what ailed me.
While waiting for the ferry in Parapat for the ride over to Samosir Island an Aussie couple recommended me to stay at the guesthouse they were just leaving. Normally I do not take recommendations, I prefer to walk around and look at places for myself. But in this instance I was not feeling the best and it started to rain so I happily took thier advice and had the ferry drop me off at Romlan Guesthouse
in Tuk Tuk on Pulau Samosir. This place was perfect. For $INR65,000 ($6.75USD) a night I got a beautiful private room and bath, hot water, and wifi. I was set. A quick dinner and I was off to bed by 8pm listening to the lake lapping up on shore just outside my room. When I awoke my lakefront room had million dollar views, just the way I like it.
My first couple of days here on Samosir Island I relaxed, swam, and worked on my form for my swan and pike dives. The water here is crystal clear and of perfect temperature to cool off in the
afternoons. Romlan has a great patio area next to the water where one can soak in the scenery whilst reading a book and sipping on fresh papaya juice lazing the days away. Clearly it was going to be very hard for me to leave this place. I also had a good wander around the village, as I am apt to do, and made friends with several of the locals. As is generally the rule of thumb food and the local hooch was shared amongst all. The Batak people are very inviting and are happy to speak with you and tell you about their lives and ask questions about yours. Of course the big news here is the election and who I want to win. A typical introductory conversation goes like this:
Them: Hello, how are you?
Me: Good thanks, how are you?
Them: Good. Where you from?
Me: I'm from The United States.
Them: Ahhh, Obama, number one!
Me: I hope so.
Them: You know Obama is from here in Indonesia?
Me: No, President Obama is from Hawaii.
Them: Oh. Come inside and have a seat.
From here it was
anyone's guess on how the day/night would proceed but what I did know was that it was authentic and the people are geniunly friendly and happy to have you as a guest in their home.
One day here I also decided to rent a motorbike so I could get out of the village and tour the countryside on the island. I managed to visit some historical sights that included a group of stone chairs and table where hundreds of years ago the old Batak Kings would discuss important matters and also decide and carry out the fate of criminals. I also visited the tomb of an ancient Batak King but the real highlight for me was the sweeping vistas and just being on a bike - albeit a very small 125c.c. It was a little unerving a first riding on the sketchy roads here, especially when massive trucks and buses are screaming at you from the other direction. The rule of the road here is biggest wins and biggest I was not. So I humbly cruised along hugging the shoulder to let the cars and trucks pass me by. Really a fun time until the rain started. Then it
was time for me to head back and watch the sunset from my spot at the lakeside.
Lounging around Danau Toba and exploring Pulau Samosir with its gorgeous scenery and wonderful people was a great experience and a time I won't soon forget. After my time here I was recovered. Fever gone and spirits lifted. Decision time was upon me. I was originally going to go north to Banda Aceh to experience the most fiercely devout Muslim culture whilst in the largest Muslim nation on the planet. My other choice was to meet a friend who had messaged me south from Jakarta. In the end my fears of not being able to wash a pork satay down with a Bintang swayed me to meet up with my friend south in Java so I hopped a flight to Jakarta. My travel day went like this:
Up at 9am to catch the 9:45am ferry to Parapat. Arrive in Parapat 10:30am. Arrange a ride to Medan in share taxi leaving at 11am. Wait 30 minutes. Drive for 5 hours in traffic and terrible road conditions. Arrive at airport in Medan at 4pm. With no ticket to fly I go to the
sales counter and manage to secure a flight leaving at 7pm. Time now is 4:30pm. Wait 2 1/2 hours to board flight. Fly to Jakarta for 2 1/2 hours. Land at 9:30pm. Wait 30 minutes for the bus that will take me to downtown Jakarta. Get on bus for 1 hour ride into town. Dropped off at the station 11pm. With no place to stay I wander for about 45 minutes trying to find the neighborhood I am supposed to go to with accommodation. With no luck I throw up the white flag and pay a tuk tuk driver $1USD (should have done this in the first place) to take me to accommodation. It is now 12:15am. Get a room and drop bags off. Get a bite to eat. Now in bed at 1am. Awesome 16 hour travel day. Why did I leave Danau Toba?
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